Why (and how) you should let your customers do the advertising for you

customer advertising

photo credit: DSC_0134 via photopin (license)

I grew up in the nineties, and my parents weren’t big on technology. My first computer had a 486 processor with a monochrome screen, it ran DOS, and it had Chessmaster 3000 on it. It was given to me by the people who owned the used bookstore in town after it had finally become too dated for even them to use. I loved that little computer.

Finally, one Christmas, my parents broke down and bought a more modern computer. It had Windows 95 and could connect to the internet. I was in heaven. I quickly taught myself to write HTML and launched my first website, a resource for pet rabbit enthusiasts.

Since that time, I have been responsible for the creation and promotion of many more websites, some of which have gone on to become full-fledged, successful businesses.

I am currently CEO of a company I founded around 8 years ago: Hatchwise. Hatchwise is a crowdsourced design community that has designed over a million different logos, websites and graphics of all kinds.

When I first launched Hatchwise, I was still running an internet company I had started previously, called MyCustomLogo, which relied almost 100% on PPC ads to bring in new sales. My company was profitable, but I was constantly stressing over the daily fluctuations in advertising cost. Also, there were a massive amount of competitors who were offering services which were priced similarly to mine, who were then advertising in the same places I did. So each of these factors made me decide that I wanted my next business to rely heavily on word of mouth, and to avoid PPC bidding wars and razor thin margins.

I was successful. The vast majority of contests started on Hatchwise come from people who heard about us through word of mouth, and who then go on to tell others about us, and just about everybody who wraps up a contest on Hatchwise has nothing but good things to say about us.

In this article, I am going to detail what we focus on here at Hatchwise, and why our customers love to tell their friends about us.

1. Focus on what you are selling. If people love the experience they’ll come back.

If your main focus is on getting new customers, but you’re neglecting the service, software, or experience that you are selling, then, in my opinion, you are wasting your time. Having a solid offering will increase your conversion rate and help you maintain a healthy growth. You should always strive to be a company that you would want to be a customer of.

Make sure that you have a website that is scalable and user-friendly. You do this by getting feedback from as many actual customers as possible. For example, it may seem to you that your website is easy to navigate, but you can’t know this for sure until you’ve gotten feedback from the people who are actually using it. Ask them what they like and don’t like about it, and how you can improve their experience.

Once you have a solid website and product you can then focus on spreading the word because everyone who uses your website or buys your product will be telling their friends about you. Obviously, the same situation applies if a customer has a bad experience, which is where the next point comes in.

2. Go above and beyond with your customer service. Everyone should have an amazing experience.

In our current day and age, people expect fast and responsive customer service. One of the things we do at Hatchwise is to make sure that all emails are responded to as quickly as possible. We also try to be aware that if we are consistently getting the same questions over and over, we need to figure out what we can do to eliminate the issue that is causing the email in the first place.

We use every email we receive as a chance to think about how we could make the customer experience easier and better than it already is. There have been times when a customer had an idea, and we implemented it that day, simply because it was a great idea. Every customer is important to us, and if they take the time to provide an idea or problem we take it very seriously.

3. If you never ask you’ll never know.

Several years ago, we began requesting feedback on our customers experience after they’ve completed a contest. This really helped us scale efficiently because we quickly identified issues that affected multiple customers. One of the big issues that arose was that the site was not mobile friendly. We realized pretty quickly by hearing feedback from customers that having a mobile-friendly site was very important to them, which is something that we had, for whatever reason, not really paid any attention to.

We also created an easy way for customers to share issues and request improvements as they were in the process of running a contest. This made it simple for customers to let us know about an issue they were having without having to email us. So we have also received a lot of great suggestions through this tool.

4. Do what you do better than anyone else.

Regardless of what you sell, customer satisfaction should be your number one concern. Identify what your customers want from you and make sure they get what they want. At Hatchwise, we realize the most important aspect of our website is the design that the customer receives. With that as our focus, we’ve worked hard to make sure that the designers who use Hatchwise are completely happy. We do this by dealing as fairly as possible with the hundreds of little issues that pop off when you have a community of thousands of designers, and also, we do this by making sure the website has all the tools and features that they require in order to operate as efficiently as they can. Shortly after we launched we created a unique program that runs in the background of the site that catches most clipart and keeps designers from copying the work of other designers.

By making sure that the designers are happy, we are able to provide an overall better experience to our clients, which results in everyone being happy.

5. It’s okay to reward people.

For a long time we did not have an affiliate program. Anytime a customer referred us it was because they thought we were awesome and they received nothing for doing it. We have recently launched an affiliate program after receiving a lot of requests to implement one. The results have been great. Giving people an incentive to recommend us was something that we should have done a while ago. If people love you and also receive something for recommending you, they are going to do it way more often.

6. It’s all about happiness.

Focusing on customer satisfaction and making it easy for customers to share any issues they are having is one of the biggest things you can do to grow your platform. It’s easy to create banner ads and market your site, but if the customers you have already have are not 100% satisfied, you are wasting your money. It is much better to have your existing customers be the marketers for your website. This will save you a significant amount of money and you will have a much more stable site.

George RyanGeorge Ryan is a serial entrepreneur who is the founder and CEO of Hatchwise, a community of tens of thousands of graphic designers and writers who have created over a million amazing designs and company names since 2008. George resides on the Connecticut coast, where he enjoys photography, his family, and starting new businesses.

 

5 Ways to Gain Brand Ambassadors (And Keep Them)

160929d“Brand ambassadors” seems like a relatively new term; however, they’ve been around as long as advertising and marketing itself (and even long before that). Knowingly or not, you’ve probably acted as a brand ambassador yourself when you recommended a product to a friend or was writing a glowing review for a local business.

More often than not, social media celebrities and bloggers come to mind when the term is used. However, the foremost important way to build brand ambassadorship is through brand loyalty of regular users. While they might not have a huge following, their words are probably more valuable to their closest circles.

Research shows that people tend to believe other people and review websites more than advertising copy on a company’s website. According to Nielsen (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2012/consumer-trust-in-online-social-and-mobile-advertising-grows.html), 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information and messaging with 70 percent trust level. It follows that brand ambassadors add one more channel to your marketing strategy as well as a new dimension to it: personality.

Brand ambassadors often encompass the target market, their aspirations and needs. So, spend some time identifying your brand ambassadors and nurture relationships with them.

Listen to conversations

If you haven’t started already, start listening to conversations happening around your brand online. One of the most obvious ways to do it is to read the comments below your social posts. Yet, with modern online listening technology, the possibilities are endless.

There are quite a few free and paid services you could use to tune in into conversations regarding your company. Viralheat is a great social media listening tool that provides in-depth analytics for mentions of your brand name, products, location, and competition. Mention offers a website app, Chrome app, as well as iOS and Android apps, so you can constantly monitor conversation happening about your brand online. Social Mention might be the most user-friendly option for beginners because it doesn’t require registration and presents information in a single information stream. Using Hootsuite, you can set up a stream that will aggregate all of the conversations about your brand even if they don’t tag you in it. For example, they may use a hashtag instead of @ symbol or not use your full brand name. They also might not use any hashtags whatsoever and just say “Mike’s Subs in downtown rocks!” If you set up a stream with search query “Mike’s Subs” and specify the location to match your city, you will get all of these tweets.

Now, if you get consistently negative sentiment regarding the same areas of your business (say customer service, long wait time, overall quality, etc.), that means you have to take care of these issues before you can start earning brand ambassadors.

However, if these reviews or comments are occasional and scattered, take them with a grain of salt; treat these as an individual case, not as a sign that your whole business model needs to be changed.

Look for the most engaged followers

It’s more difficult to achieve with business pages that have a large following, yet try to outline a few people who you notice on your social channels the most. I’m not talking about just likes here, your super fans are more engaged – they comment and share your posts frequently. Those are your raving fans because they show dedication and a true following of your brand. They might be already acting as brand ambassadors for you in their circles. If you reach out to them to act as your online brand ambassadors officially, they will be super happy to help you out because they will feel even more appreciated.

Watch out for bloggers

Blogger outreach is another great strategy to gain more “experienced” or “heavyweight” brand ambassadors. Do your research and find most influential and interesting bloggers in your niche; see if it makes sense to work with these bloggers. Try to go as targeted as you can. Sometimes it is better to work with bloggers who have a smaller following, but are considered a true guru in their respective niche. If you sell wine and they blog about all kinds of alcoholic drinks, your turn to shine might not happen often. Instead, focus on wine bloggers who might shine a true spotlight on your products. Besides, wine bloggers’ audience is specifically interested in wine, whereas more broad bloggers have a much more varied audience that might not necessarily be interested in your type of product.

Quality over quantity approach is very important with this strategy. Sure you can buy ads on pretty much any website, or you could find great affiliate networks that will promote your products day and night. However, if these affiliates, bloggers or other publishers didn’t build the trust with their respective audiences, your efforts will go to waste. Another thing you should examine is how many products they promote and whether they promote industry competitors. Try to find authentic publishers who have built their credibility and trust; this will warm up their audiences to your pitch as well.

Another thing to take into consideration is what type of reimbursement these bloggers work for. Some might accept product reimbursements; other bloggers only accept monetary reimbursements (and some of those are pretty hefty and specific). If a blogger already mentioned your product on their blog because they liked it (I often share links to online tools I use and like), then approaching them might be very easy and reimbursements for their mentions might be minimal.

Sometimes you just need to hire a few brand ambassadors to get the ball rolling. It’s ok. This way, you will have a full control of what gets said, where it is shared and when some information should come down. Besides, you will have professional relations with these people, so you can edit their writing before it gets published. There will be no hurt feelings either once you decide to part ways.

Look internally

Sometimes your best brand ambassadors are your own employees. A lot of times, employees use company’s products already. All you need to do here is to identify employees who a) truly love the company and/or the product and b) write well. These employees can write occasional interviews and blog posts clearly disclosing that they are employed with a company; otherwise, you might run into trouble later.

When you identify and work with brand ambassadors, make sure to show your appreciation of their efforts. Especially if these people are regular people loving your products and telling your friends about it, be personable and human. Whatever approach you choose, make sure that selected brand ambassadors:

  1. Make sense for you industry-wise;
  2. Have built up credibility and following;
  3. Provide value to their audiences by promoting your products (otherwise no one will care for your offering even if it’s amazing).

What do you think? Do you think brand ambassadors play an important role in your marketing strategy? What approaches and tactics do you use to manage relationships with existing brand ambassadors and nurture new ones? Share in the comments section below.
IMG_2939-small-1024x683Lesya Liu is a blogger at The Social Media Current, a photographer and a social media expert. Her passion lies in art and marketing (and combining the two). You can find her latest tactics advice here.

8 Social Media Hacks to Increase Customer Retention

Many times when businesses talk social media, they’re only talking about social media marketing. By neglecting the other components of social media and focusing only on marketing, businesses aren’t realizing the full potential social media has to offer their business in terms of building long-term relationships with their customers. In this blog, I want to talk about 8 social media hacks to help your business increase customer retention and loyalty.

Be Easy To Find

Having a consistent username across all social platforms makes it easier for your customers to quickly find your business when and where they need you. Tools like Namech_k let you easily check your username availability across hundreds of online networks.

Create of List of Top Brand Ambassadors

Just as important as engaging with industry influencers is making a list of your top brand ambassadors. Engage with them daily about their every day lives, interests and hobbies. I’ve developed some of my most loyal customers as a result of knowing their favorite sports teams, music, food, and tv shows and proactively tweeting them about these things.

Make Use of Alerts and Listening Tools

Google Alerts, Hootsuite, and Topsy are all great examples of social media listening tools which provide immediate notifications to brand mentions and key phrases. By monitoring phrases beyond just your brand name, for example monitoring a key phrase within 5 miles of your business, you can ensure you’re always engaging in the right conversations.

Schedule (Some of) Your Posts

A fully automated social media strategy is not a social media strategy. But, scheduling some of your posts is an effective way to stay productive while consistently posting to your social networks. Consider a service like Buffer which adds an extension to your browser and automatically schedules any content you want to share at predetermined times.

buffer-scheduler

Develop Platform Specific Content

With the growth of all-in-one social media posting platforms like Hootsuite, we’ve seen an increase in businesses posting the exact same content across all platforms at the same time. The psychology of a user on Twitter and the content they are hoping to discover is far different than what they expect on Facebook. Give customers a reason to follow all of your networks by providing platform exclusive content and promotions. The more places you can reach them, the more likely they are to build a long-term relationship with your business.

Engage In Real Time

More and more customers are turning to social media for customer service related questions as it’s a more immediate and public channel than calling an 800 number. Having a designated team that’s equally attentive to customer praise and frustration in a social context is key to retaining customers and addressing their needs as they happen. Response time can be the difference between a ranting customer and raving one.

Pay Attention to Your Tone

Todays consumers are in-tune to the social nuances of how businesses communicate online. Pay attention to how your target audience engages on each specific platform and adopt a tone that relates to your audience while still reflecting your overall brand positioning.

Create a List of Influencers

Make a list of the top 10 or 20 people in your industry that you want to engage with on social media – people who are strangers to you and your business. Spend at least 15 minutes per day engaging with some of this list in a non-spammy way. Contribute to the discussion they’re having and eventually they’ll start to recognize you and your business lending more social proof to your service or product.

Shifting The Perspective on Social Media

Next time your boss, co-worker, or client brings up their social media marketing strategy force them to think outside of the box. Social media marketing needs to expand beyond “marketing” and take into consideration the customer experience at all of the points where consumers are using these social platforms to experience the product, create and share their stories about that experience with others. Having a social media strategy that goes beyond just marketing helps businesses break the chains of needing high cost paid media placements by building long-term, organic relationships within their target audience.

 

dallas-mclaughlin-headshotDallas McLaughlin is a Digital Marketing Specialist at The James Agency, a full-service advertising agency in Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs frequently at DallasMcLaughlin.com about Search Engine Optimization, Pay-Per-Click, and Social Media Marketing trends. If you have any questions, you can tweet him directly at @BossDJay.

5 of the Best Tools to Track and Measure Your Domain’s Social Impact

No matter what type of business you own, it is definitely in your best interests to not only have a website but to also take the time to track your domain’s social impact. After all, a website alone no longer provides a strong enough Internet presence to push your site toward the top of Google’s search engine ranking. Additionally, without a positive and big social impact, you will end up missing out on a large percentage of your potential customers.

The best place to start is by selecting a domain name that is going to be easy to remember and spell, which is also highly descriptive of your business. In other words, if you have a law firm in Chicago, you might want to consider having ChicagoLaw as at least one of your domain names. Next, it is important to put certain key tools in place to help you ensure that you are getting the most out of your potential social impact.

1. Analytics

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 Image by Yoel Ben-Avraham, via Flickr   

 Google Analytics are well-known and loved by website owners of all types because they can sync up with Google AdWords, they provide a lot of information for free and they can be linked into many enterprise software platforms that offer more robust tools. Analytics will give you a good snapshot of how many of your site’s visitors started on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus, and this is a big piece of the social impact puzzle. Keep in mind that Google determines your site’s influential rating and search engine ranking in part by the links between your social media pages and website.

2. Tracking Your Social Media Popularity

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Image permission by Nadja Shiller, Searchmetrics

Analytics will show you how many people visit your site after seeing a link on social media, but this is only one piece of the puzzle. Enterprise software such as the Searchmetrics Suite is able to truly capture the impact that your efforts are having on your company’s social media presence. Searchmetrics analyzes the performance of each social media site and provides useful tweaks for improving visibility, monitoring brand perception and optimizing your overall cross-network performance.

3. Increasing Your Overall Influence

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Image by See-ming Lee, via Flickr   

As previously mentioned, Google ties your social media popularity into your domain’s overall influence score. So how can you boost this score without spending a lot of time and money? The answer is simple: utilize Klout to see real-time updates on your level of influence. Additionally, Klout suggests sharable content that is well-written and should be of great interest to the people within your social network. This is a good way to get your followers to share your content, which in turn will boost the total number of people who see your company’s name.

4. Discover Who is Talking About Your Company

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Social Mention screenshot via Google search

Being able to track social mentions gives you a huge advantage. Placing an emphasis on this will give the ability to see how many people are engaged by your product or service, and you will have the opportunity to respond in a timelier manner to positive and negative comments. Instead of having someone spend a significant amount of time Googling your business name to find the latest posts, you can use Social Mention to see everything in one place. This tool will also tell you the overall strength, sentiment, passion and reach of all of the social posts that mention your company.

5. Determine How Impactful Your Twitter Accounts Are

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It is common for businesses to run multiple Twitter accounts, but this makes it difficult to truly track their impact on your domain. TwitterCounter is a tool that takes care of this problem, and it also makes it easy to determine if your tweets are having the desired impact. An extra feature of this tool is that you can connect more easily with followers who have a high level of social media influence in order to more easily spread the word about your brand.

As you can see, there are many ways to track your domain’s overall social media influence. Fortunately, the five options listed above offer a nice combination of features, and they can even give you necessary information that will help you increase the power of your social media reach.

 

Holly's Picture 3Holly Chavez is a content creator and owner of a small online business. She turns to tools that track her domain’s social impact for meaningful statistics for her social media marketing. She also uses them as a part of the fundamental resources needed in order to push her website’s presence to the top of Google’s search engine rankings.